Headlines: July 16th, 2007


A report will be released this week detailing how the Improvement and Development Agency has helped rural councils to find solutions to rural problems. Meanwhile council officers working in strategic housing will be working together to find solutions for rural communities through an IDeA-led programme of action learning sets.

The report to be unveiled on Wednesday at a conference in Berkshire covers phase one of the Rural Excellence programme. It was commissioned by the Agency and has been compiled by the University of Newcastle. Richard Greening, the Agency’s Rural Excellence programme manager, will address delegates from authorities in rural areas.

The conference will discuss the results from the programme which has covered topics such as housing, migrant issues, rural transport and youth issues. Mr. Greening will cite the work being carried out by East Cambridgeshire District Council on housing, to suggest real solutions can be found to even the most difficult of rural problems. Until recently East Cambridgeshire was the fastest growing district in England with some of the fastest rising property prices. In 2006 an average home cost 194,000 thousand pounds, about ten times the average income. As a result, one of the main problems for parish councils was the difficulty faced by young people in rural villages who wanted to buy their first home. Through assistance from the rural excellence programme, the district council has found innovative solutions to the rural housing crisis.

Mr. Greening said, “The Rural Excellence programme helps rural councils, to build capacity and deliver service improvements based on local priorities chosen by the participating councils. It delivers a range of activities including mentoring, action learning, conferences and an online community of practice.”

The Action Learning set Programme is designed to give rural practitioners access to support from peers facing similar issues and using their own knowledge to support others. It will allow common issues, and suggestions for how problems can be dealt with and these will also be drawn to the attention of government and partners.

The programme is due to begin in September and will include a series of facilitated meetings. Any rural-based local authority staff who wish to take part in the programme can register their interest by August 3rd. More information is available from www.idea.gov.uk/rurallearning